1. Food

Super Simple Herb & Spice Ideas


No need to subject yourself to boring breakfasts, settle for ho hum snacks, or fret if unexpected guests arrive. With creative use of herbs and spices, you can quickly turn out treats that are sure to please.

Cinnamon Toast

© 2007 Miri Rotkovitz
Ditch your practical morning cereal and indulge in some old-school comfort. Spread toast (multigrain is nice) with butter, and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Health nuts won't want to try this everyday, but if you're trying to wean yourself off of donuts and danish, this is actually a good swap. Weird as it may sound, drizzling the toast with extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter is quite tasty, at least to EVOO fanatics.

Hot Spiced Cider

© 2008 Miri Rotkovitz
Crave a winter warmer, but need a change from coffee or tea? Pour apple cider in a non-reactive saucepan, and spice it up! For every cup of cider, add one cinnamon stick (or 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon), 2 whole cloves, and a dash of nutmeg or allspice. Gently heat until simmering, then turn off the heat, remove the cloves, and pour into mugs. If you used cinnamon sticks, use one to garnish each mug. Enjoy!

Herbed or Spiced Goat Cheese

© 2008 Miri Rotkovitz
Dress up a salad or wow unexpected guests with herbed or spiced goat cheese. Pour your favorite herb or spice on a plate (or combine a few), and roll a log of goat cheese in it until well coated. Cracked black pepper, chili powder, oregano, basil, thyme, and dill are all great choices. If you want to get really fancy, slice the plain goat cheese log into 3 or 4 sections, and roll each in a different herb or spice. Arrange these on a platter with crackers, dried fruit, nuts, olives, or grapes, and serve with a bottle of wine. It's almost too simple.

Dressed-Up Olives

Photo © Flickr user ReneS
Maybe you've got fancy olives on hand -- like Kalamatas, Picholines, or Cerignolas. Or maybe you've just got a jar of pimento-stuffed olives kicking around in the refrigerator door. In either case, those plump little gems are begging for a little special treatment. Place the drained olives in a bowl, drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil, and shower them with a sprinkling of dried oregano, thyme, basil, and red pepper flakes. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice if you want to brighten the flavor a bit, then toss everything together. Or, go Greek -- lay slices of feta on a plate, top with olives, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and add a generous sprinkling of oregano. Serve with pita bread.

Curried Popcorn

Photo © Flickr user Zanastardust
The possibilities for herbed and spiced popcorn are pretty endless, but it's tough to beat the appeal of this curried version. Pop corn on the stove top, in a popper, or in the microwave. (If you use microwave popcorn, go for plain or lightly salted -- the "butter" flavored versions are pretty artificial tasting, and may not be worth doctoring.) Pour the popcorn into a bowl, add a drizzle of olive oil, and sprinkle generously with curry powder. Add a pinch or two of salt, and toss the popcorn with clean hands until the spice is well distributed. Enjoy!

Luscious Tomato Salad

© 2007 Miri Rotkovitz
This simple salad has incredible depth of flavor, yet it's so simple to assemble. Cut ripe tomatoes into chunks and place in a bowl. (Beefsteak, plum, or hothouse tomatoes all work. You can also use cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half). Splash the tomatoes liberally with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, and add a generous amount of fresh chopped garlic. If you've got fresh or dried basil or oregano on hand, add that too. Toss the tomatoes around and add more oil and vinegar if desired. Enjoy at room temperature as is, atop salad greens or pasta, or alongside grilled fish or meat.

Ooh La La Carrot Salad

This salad is oh-so-French, and oh-so-easy. Julienne peeled carrots, and toss with fresh chopped parsley, chopped garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. Enjoy it with a hunk of warm baguette, and glass of wine, and imagine you're at a Parisian sidewalk cafe.

Minted Fruit Salad

Photo © Flickr user LollyKnit
It's such a simple addition, but for some reason, people always seem strangely impressed when there's mint in the fruit salad. Just go with it. Rinse and dry fresh mint, chop it finely, and add it to you favorite mix of fruit. Mint works especially well with melon, berries, pineapples, and peaches or nectarines.

Double Ginger Ice Cream -- and Cinnamon, Too

© 2008 Miri Rotkovitz
Ginger fiends will go wild for this spicy-sweet treat. Just scoop vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt into a bowl, and allow it to soften slightly. Sprinkle on powdered ginger (try 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon per scoop), and stir until the ginger is well distributed throughout the ice cream. Then, add a bit of chopped crystallized ginger, stir again, and enjoy. Cinnamon lovers can use the same ice cream customizing technique -- just replace the ginger with cinnamon. Cinnamon ice cream is great on its own, or with shaved dark chocolate mixed in.

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